“I haven’t changed my nun’s dress in years.” She’s almost blushing. “It’s a bit uncomfortable to me.”
“You’re always beautiful, White Queen,” the March says, although he should be trying to remember the exact incident with Carolus.
“You are,” I say.
“I don’t want to look beautiful,” she says. “I want to look convincing enough that we can get through the UN’s building gates.
“Don’t worry,” the chauffeur says. “I’ve taken care of that. The Pillar sent me fake invitations for the three of you.”
This doesn’t warm Fabiola toward him though.
“I think, as much of a mystery as he is, he still tries to help,” I say.
“You don’t know him, Alice,” she says. “He shouldn’t have killed more people. You think he solved the world’s drug problem? Tomorrow, another Executioner will be born.”
“This is exactly what I was talking about when I told about you staring darkness in the eyes, and not getting stained with it.”
“I think I get it. I felt so much hate and anger in Columbia, I was about to go on a rampage, too.”
“The Pillar never got it. That’s why he isn’t a good man. He wants to fight fire with fire, not admitting that he likes it.”
“I have to say he does like it.” I stretch my arms. “But forget about him. You know what I like about this moment?”
“The three of us are on a mission together. Three more and the Inklings will be complete.”
“I’m an Inklings’ member?” The March giggles. “So frabjous.”
“You know what would be frabjous?” I tell him. “If you remembered any useful details about the plague. Maybe there is a cure, after all.”
“I’m trying my best.” His ears dangle a bit. “Believe me, I do. I’ve even looked through all my pockets for a clue, but...”
Suddenly his ears stand erect again. His eyes bulge out like usual.
“What is it?” Fabiola says.
“I found something in my jacket’s pocket. It’s a hidden pocket I totally forgot about.”
“And what did you find in there?” I say.
The March says nothing. He elevates his hands, showing four thin tubes, like the ones you use in a chemistry lab.
“What are those?” I inquire.
“I still need to remember that, but...” His eyes dart between me and Fabiola. “I think this could be the cure.”
“Where is Alice?” Carolus’ face twitched.
“Calm down,” the Queen told him, not facing him but the presidents of the world from behind the curtain overlooking the huge meeting room. “She is on her way. Besides, didn’t I give you a Lullaby pill?”
“It was just one pill. Not enough.”
“Well, then save your anger for Alice when she arrives. I have no idea why everyone is so interested in this girl.”
“Because she is the Real Alice.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Who else would walk around trying to save the world?” Carolus said. “It must be her.”
“That’s the Pillar’s doing. He wants something from her, probably the whereabouts of the keys. That’s all. She isn’t Alice.”
“She must be.” Carolus’ head ached. His jaw looked tense.
“I think you should wait in the other room for her to arrive,” the Queen said. “You can’t show up in the meeting anyway. Everyone knows you’re the madman with the hookahs.”
“Not even when Alice arrives?”
“You can do whatever you want to her when she comes, but not in the meeting room. I need the press to document and videotape the presidents swearing and humiliating each other when the tea’s effect begins. Wait for her when she leaves the room. I’ll get my guards to help you catch her.”
“I don’t need your guards. You don’t know what my plan is.”
“I surely don’t.” The Queen rolled her eyes. Lewis’s split persona had always been cuckoo in the head. “And I don’t want to. All I care about is seeing the presidents clash against one another.”
“Good luck with that.” Carolus turned around.
“Wait,” the Queen said. “I just need to make sure we understand each other, that what you told me about the plague is true, or my plan will be useless.”
“I told you the truth.”
“’The ‘truth’ is not the best word to use on this occasion.”
“Rest assured. What I told you about the plague is a fact. You go rule the world while I get Alice.”
“Agreed.” The Queen rubbed her hands and entered the meeting.
Once she got inside, a butler offered her tea.
“I don’t need tea,” she mumbled, sitting down. “Do I look like I need to tell the truth?”
The butler, who was Indian, walked away confused, cursing those arrogant English people who’d wrongfully occupied his land for years. He suddenly realized how much he despised them.
The Queen of Hearts smiled, listening to his mumbling. Good. The Tea of Truth was working.
“You need to remember,” I tell the March while inside the special limousine the Pillar rented for us. “Are those tubes the cure?”
“First of all, they aren’t just tubes. They are syringes inside.” He examines them in his hands. “But I think they are.”
“Think isn’t good enough,” Fabiola says.
The limousine crosses the gate and we’re parking next to the most important presidents in the world. I watch each one of them get out of his car, surrounded by the bulkiest guards. It’s ironic to see this kind of luxury and protection while the world is withering away everywhere else.
“If everyone is a president around here, who are we?” Fabiola asks the chauffeur.
“You’re Queen and Princess of Bonkerstan,” he announces, handing over our fake passports.
“That’s not a country.” I comment.
“That’s not even a real word” The March chuckles. “Oh, I’m the Minister of Cuckoology. Love that.”
“You know how many countries exist with such weird names?” the chauffeur says. “The world is too big, and the weirder the country’s name, the more no one cares. Just flash your passport on the way in. Act like a queen and princess. If asked, tell them you have a cure for the plague and show them the syringes. You need to get inside and stop the presidents from drinking the Queen’s tea.”
“So I didn’t need to dress like a business woman,” Fabiola says. “I’m a queen, after all.”
We step out of the limo, and we’re the only ones without protection or guards. I see Fabiola hide her Vorpal sword inside her dress and raise an eyebrow at her.
“In case your umbrella isn’t good enough,” she says.
“Time to kick some butt,” the March Hare says.
We both shoot him a straight look. He shouldn’t be joking. He should remember things.
We wave at the other presidents on the way in. Most of them stare at us from head to toe, wondering how it’s possible we’re here.
“Bonkerstan!” I celebrate, waving my umbrella.
Suddenly, all kinds of reporters surround us.
“Are you here to save the world? “A woman sticks her mic into my face.
“Of course,” I say. “Me and my mother.” I point at Fabiola.
“You speak English?” the reporter wonders. “Could you please tell us where Bonkerstan is on the map?”
“It’s not on the map.” I am improvising. “We asked it not to be included.”
“We need to protect our resources.” Fabiola catches up.
“Really?” another reporter asks. “What kind of resources?”
“It’s hard to explain,” I begin to stutter. What did I get myself into? “It’s more of...”
“Jub jubs.” Fabiola saves me again. “We produce about fourteen million jub jubs a year.”
“What’s a jub jub—“
“I think it’s more like thirteen million.” Now I cut in.
“Of course.” Fabiola distracts the reporter until we get into the building. “Considering the last million was all infested with marshmallows.”
“I’m sorry,” the reporter tenses. “But who are you, really?”
Fabiola and I say nothing. We’re only a few meters into the building, and this reporter could expose us.